Five officials deny roles in military counterintelligence
At least five members of Parliament, in addition to many well-known athletes, have been revealed to have a record as confidantes in the register of communist-era military counterintelligence (VKR) archives. The list, which contains more than 140,000 names, was published July 28 by the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes. Several of the MPs affiliated with the Civic Democrats and Social Democrats are considering suing the state in order to clear their names.
“We are completely impartial and are not trying to hurt anyone by posting the information online,” said Jiří Reichl, spokesman for the security services archive. “We are attempting to reach maximum transparency. This is the best way to guarantee public access to our activities.”
Reichl is quick to point out that even though someone’s name appears on the list, that person is not automatically accused of collaborating with communist secret services. “These records do not necessarily mean that the person listed actively cooperated with VKR. Only the actual files can show that. Those would be too large to post online in their entirety,” Reichl said. “Even being a confidante is not considered active cooperation according to the Constitutional Court,” he added.
The register includes three Civic Democrats, Walter Bartoš, Tomáš Hasil and Juraj Raninec, as well as two Social Democrats, Pavel Ploc and Evžen Snítilý. All five MPs deny any wrongdoing and each says his name is on the register as a result of routine activity.
“There is nothing simpler than to clear anyone of any wrongdoing. Just publish all available files as proof,” Reichl said in response to such assertions.
In order to back their claims, four of the five named MPs responded to The Prague Post’s questions about the archives.
Bartoš supported the law that forced the archives to be opened to the public. “I still support the decision, even though my name came up,” he said. “I think questions from the past should be answered once and for all.”
Bartoš denies any wrongdoing during his service in the Army. “I have never knowingly worked with any repressive branch of the communist regime,” he said. “I never reported on anyone nor did I perform any tasks for the secret service.”
In order to clear suspicion, Bartoš published his VKR file online. However, this decision backfired. The final report in the file says Bartoš fulfilled all his duties satisfactorily and that among other tasks he looked into a fellow soldier’s West German connections with distant relatives. The file was also flagged to be archived for five years.
“I want the whole thing to go to court. I want to prove that I have never knowingly collaborated with the VKR,” Bartoš said.
Hasil was genuinely surprised to learn that his name was on the communist military counterintelligence register. “I served as a regular soldier and there was nothing interesting about me at all,” he said.
Hasil denied any cooperation and said he thinks his name was used just to fill a quota of spies. He also pointed out that the file is full of mistakes.
“To me, it looks like they picked my name off an old list,” he said. “The address I am supposed to be living at was three years old at the time, and I even served in a different unit at the time the report was written. You’d think the soldiers could at least get that right.”
Hasil’s file, which he also published online, seems to support his claims. “Information provided by Hasil concerned moral and political feelings in the unit,” the report stated. It also concludes that, due to the lack of interesting information, the file was supposed to be discarded.
Hasil was not happy with the media attention he suddenly received as a result of the published archives but is not considering any legal action. “It is just shocking that lies written 25 years ago can still make your life difficult after such a long time,” he said
The file concerning Raninec was destroyed and so only the fact that he was registered remains as evidence. Raninec, however, denies working with the VKR.
“All I can say is that, even though my name is in the register, I never knew about it. I have no idea why my name is there, because I never met with any VKR operatives while I served in the Army,” he said.
Raninec said he thinks the only reason why his name is in the files is because he served in the area of radio reconnaissance and thus had potential access to sensitive information.
Ploc was not only a soldier but also a world-class athlete. His ski-jumping career in the ’80s, which included a world record and a silver Olympic medal, earned him the right to travel with the Czechoslovak national team. He admitted to meeting with VKR operatives after each trip abroad.
“We were debriefed every single time. All athletes faced a simple choice between a sports career and enduring a short talk with secret service personnel,” he said.
However, Ploc denied providing the VKR with any sensitive information. “The worst I ever told them was that we’d met friends who emigrated, or showed them what I bought for my kids at a duty-free shop,” he said. Ploc also promised to publish his file online, but added, “I am considering legal action to clear my name, so my lawyers have to study it first.”
Snítilý, the renegade MP who defected from the Social Democrats during the 2008 presidential
election, once again called attention to himself by appearing on the VKR list. However, he remained silent on the subject. His response to the archives is absent from media coverage of the issue, and he did not respond to Prague Post requests for comment.